Isaac drenches Haiti, heads toward Cuba, Florida; 3 dead

The storm was heading toward eastern Cuba and forecasters said it poses a threat to Florida.

Updated: Aug 25, 2012, 23:26 PM IST

Port-au-Prince (Haiti): Tropical Storm Isaac swept across Haiti`s southern peninsula early Saturday, bringing flooding and at least three deaths while adding to the misery of a poor nation still trying to recover from the terrible 2010 earthquake.

The storm was heading toward eastern Cuba and forecasters said it poses a threat to Florida Monday and Tuesday, just as the Republican Party gathers for its national convention in Tampa.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami said a hurricane warning is in effect for the Florida Keys, for the west coast of Florida from Bonita Beach south to Ocean Reef and for Florida Bay, and it projected that Isaac could be a Category 2 storm by the time it hits the US mainland, likely at the Florida Panhandle on Tuesday or Wednesday.

At least three people were reported dead. A woman and a child died in the town of Souvenance, Sen Francisco Delacruz told a local radio station. A 10-year-old girl died in Thomazeau when a wall fell on his, said Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, director of Haiti`s Civil Protection Office. She said as many as 5,000 people were evacuated because of flooding.

Many, however, stayed and suffered.

In the shantytown of Cite Soleil, just north of Port-au-Prince, about 300 homes had either their roofs blown off or sitting in one meter of water, according to Rachel Brumbaugh, operation manager for the US nonprofit group World Vision.

"From last night, we`re in misery," said Cite Soleil resident Jean-Gymar Joseph. "All our children are sleeping in the mud, in the rain."

More than 50 tents in a quake settlement collapsed, forcing people to scramble through the mud to try to save their belongings.

Forecasters said Isaac could dump as much 30 centimetres and even up to 51 centimetres on Hispaniola, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as well as produce a storm surge of up to 0.9 meters.

Isaac was centered about 65 kilometers east of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, early today, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). It was moving northwest at 17 mph (28 kph). Tropical force winds extended nearly 321 kilometers from the storm`s centre.

Forecasters said the storm was likely to march up the Gulf of Mexico, offshore of Florida`s west coast, as a hurricane on Monday, just as the Republican National Convention is scheduled to start. Tampa was within the tropical storm watch zone, meaning forecasters believe tropical storm conditions are possible there within the next 48 hours.